HomeAdvertorialsIt is almost time for the annual GSSA congress

It is almost time for the annual GSSA congress

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

The 59th Annual Congress of the Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is set to be a landmark event for professionals in the field of grassland and rangeland ecology. The event will take place from 22 to 26 July 2024, the congress will take place at the scenic Gariep Forever Resort in the Free State.

This year’s congress is particularly noteworthy for its inclusion of two specialised workshops, namely a research skills workshop on 22 July and a policy and practice workshop on 26 July. These sessions are designed to give attendees hands-on experience and insights into the latest trends and practices in the field.

The congress is not only an academic exercise, but it is also a celebration of the rich tapestry of grassland science. From arid and desert ecosystems to biodiversity and conservation, from climate change impacts to communal rangelands management, the range of topics is as diverse as the ecosystems under discussion. The congress will also address fire ecology, invasive species, livestock and game management, planted pastures, feeding ecology, rangeland ecology and management, and restoration efforts.

Exploring the applications of artificial intelligence

The research skills workshop, titled “Using artificial intelligence responsibly in data analysis, writing, and research”, is a timely addition to the programme. With the advent of generative artificial intelligence technology, there is a burgeoning interest in its application across various sectors, including academics. This workshop will delve into the ethical and practical aspects of utilising artificial intelligence in research, offering a balanced perspective on the benefits and potential pitfalls of these technologies.

Dr Justin du Toit from the Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute, whose expertise in Karoo vegetation dynamics is well regarded will facilitate the workshop. Dr Victoria Goodall, who is a seasoned statistical consultant with a focus on statistical ecology from VLG Statistical Services, will join him. Together, they will guide participants through the nuances of artificial intelligence applications in data analysis and research writing.

A discussion about range-expanding woody species

The policy and practice workshop, which will take place at the end of the congress, will provide a forum for scientists, policy makers, practitioners, and land managers to interactively share experience and knowledge on the challenging aspects of range-expanding woody species in mountainous contexts.

This session aims to foster a dialogue about the trends, predictions, and mitigations related to this ecological challenge, providing a platform for knowledge exchange and policy development.

Prof Ralph Clark, director of the Afromontane Research Unit at the University of the Free State, and Dr Grant Martin, deputy-director: Centre for Biological Control, at Rhodes University will facilitate the workshop.

The workshop will be a combination of presentations and interactive discussions. A pre-determined list of priority stakeholders will be invited to attend in person, with additional in-person spaces available until a cap is reached. The workshop will also be hybrid, so that participation can also take place virtually.

Student sponsorships and event partners

The GSSA is committed to nurturing the next generation of scientists in the field. To this end, the society is offering student sponsorships for the annual congress, which includes participation in the research skills workshop and full access to the congress proceedings. This initiative underscores the society’s dedication to academic growth and the dissemination of knowledge.

Plaas Media, the main media sponsor, and other esteemed sponsors such as Biodiversa+ and Grootfontein College of Agriculture, are instrumental in bringing this event to fruition. Their support not only underscores the importance of the congress but also reflects the collaborative spirit that drives the field forward.

Click here to read about last year’s event.

Registration is open and the event promises to be an enriching experience, offering a unique convergence of research, policy, and practice. Whether you are a seasoned professional or a budding scientist, the congress is an event not to be missed.

This is an opportunity to engage with experts, contribute to meaningful discussions, and stay abreast of the latest developments in grassland science. Mark your calendars and be part of a gathering that shapes the future of our natural landscapes. – Renate Louw, Plaas Media

To register for the congress or the workshops, or for more information, please visit the official website, send an email to info@grassland.org.za or call +27 82 8252 088.

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